December 2, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo will be aiming to break the goalscoring record of Portuguese legend Eusebio at the World Cup.

And, according to Portuguese boss Fernando Santos, the Manchester United superstar can also eclipse the man dubbed the Black Pearl by lifting the most prized trophy in the game.

Eusebio led Portugal to the semi-final of the 1966 tournament – scoring nine goals to win the Golden Boot – before being beaten by hosts England at Wembley.

Ronaldo, 37, needs three more goals to become Portugal’s highest scorer at the World Cup finals – after hitting the net seven times in 17 games spread across four tournaments.

Santos, who guided Portugal to glory at Euro 2016, believes Ronaldo’s fifth World Cup can be his greatest – despite a season of turmoil at Old Trafford that has seen him struggle to nail down a place in Erik ten Hag’s team.

Santos said: “Cristiano, like all of the players I have called up, comes with a huge hunger to show his ability and to make Portugal the world champion. Is Ronaldo hungrier? Let’s wait and see.

“He has always been hungry – that’s why he has stayed at the top of the game for so long. I am not interested in what he was like a month ago. He has played four games for Manchester United since then.”

Ronaldo became the oldest player to score a hat-trick when he bagged a treble in the draw with Spain in Russia in 2018. Career rival Lionel Messi will also be playing in his fifth tournament – but if Ronaldo finds the back of the net in the desert he will become the first player to score in five finals.

Santos is bullish about his team’s chances of prevailing. He said: “I think France are the favourites because they are the reigning champions. But we are also in that category.

“I really believe we can be the world champion. That’s how much I think this team can bring. That is the ambition we all have. I believe – and so do the players.”

Santos has named 10 Premier League players in his squad, with Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Neves, Mattheus Nunes, Jose Sa and Joao Palhinha alongside Ronaldo.

Ronado has scored an incredible 117 goals in 191 games for his country – but only has a solitary Premier League strike under his belt this season. He has been sidelined by illness after failing to make any impression in United’s 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa last Sunday.

The former Sporting Lisbon, Real Madrid and Juventus striker made his international debut when he came on as a substitute for Portuguese legend Luis Figo against Kazakhstan in August 2003. Ronaldo will hope his last dance is his greatest.

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